A Film For September: La Ciénaga

If I was asked to sum this film up in a sentence it would be that this is the kind of film where the loo seat is always left up.

In the opening scene of La Ciénaga (The Swamp) a group of adults are drinking around the swimming pool of their summer house, the camera swoops in and around them focusing on separate body parts as if it’s another character. Mecha (Graciela Borges) collects some glasses but falls drunkenly. None of the adults come to help or even seem to realise what’s happened, it’s the children watching through a window that pull the glass out of her chest and take her to the hospital.

Mecha’s friend, possibly her cousin, Tali (Mercedes Morán) comes to stay with her own children. There’s now quite a crowd in the stifling heat. Ages range from middle age to young adult to teenager and child. The house is shabbily decadent; the maids are Collas, Indians and accused of stealing; the pool is always filthy; there’s a festering quality to the sunbathing on rusty metal chairs. In the sticky, uncomfortable heat no one wears many clothes and they all sprawl around in each others beds doing nothing for a lot of the time.

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A Film For September: The Headless Women

The film begins with a group of children playing on their bikes by a road. Later the same day elegant, middle aged Verónica (Maria Onetto), is seen driving along a deserted road when her phone rings, looking down at it she hits something in the road, bangs her head and suffers mild concussion. We follow her as she gets treatment and we see that she is having a relationship with someone other than her husband. So far, so simple.

But as the days go by with her family and extended family her emotional realities of everyday life start to become a bit hazy. Gradually all her activities from the previous day seem to disappear and under intense observation we watch as her grip on reality starts to unravel. Did she hit a dog or was it worse, was it a child? And this we don’t know, from the opening scene of the children playing it’s a possibility. And is her detachment from her world purely the result of the concussion or is it also guilt? Because of her affair, or is there more for her to feel guilty about? Verónica’s murky, disoriented mindset is portrayed as dreamlike and foggy as her paranoia makes her increasingly isolated.

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